Resort Leads Workers to Stress Management

Article excerpt

Byline: Amelia A. Hart, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

One of Nassau County's largest employers is helping its workers Get SMART about stress.

The Amelia Island Plantation is taking advantage of the Nassau County Extension Service to expand the award-winning wellness program the resort offers to its 1,300 employees.

Beginning July 12, Meg McAlpine, the extension service's family and consumer science agent, will lead a six-week stress management program dubbed Get SMART, for Stress Management And Relaxation Techniques. By providing employees with practical techniques to handle stress, the resort hopes to increase employee productivity and reduce healthcare costs.

Stress is the No. 1 risk factor in personal health, said Ned Tyson, the resort's wellness consultant. And it's a factor that affects everybody.

"Everyone has stress, unless you're dead," Tyson said.

That proved true among those who attended the introductory session of Get SMART at the resort June 20.

McAlpine read aloud the 16 most common signs of stress and asked audience members to stand up if they had experienced any of them in the past year. Long before she reached the end of the list, everyone in the room was standing.

Betty Beck, who works in accounts payable at the resort, said she encounters stress every day.

"It's a good job, but there's also a lot of stress," she said.

Stress triggers a number of biochemical changes in the body as the fight-or-flight instinct kicks in, McAlpine said. Those responses include increased blood pressure, quicker breathing and tightened muscles.

But the impacts of stress are more than physical, she said. The irritability and depression it can cause also damage family and personal relationships.

The physical toll stress takes on the body, and the less-than-healthful ways many people cope with stress -- including smoking, overeating and drinking -- directly impacts employers' bottom lines, Tyson said.

Stress can diminish work performance because it affects concentration and memory. …